5 Questions with Ted Rel

Published on December 08, 2016

Have you ever found yourself looking deep into nature and see something in the clouds, the trail or on the beach that looks like an animal or a figure? Supervising code enforcement officer Ted Rel not only saw something in a piece of driftwood, but was inspired to bring it to life. Ted created a life-size eagle and submitted it to the Placer Creates employee art show. His eagle is titled "Vigilant Freedom" and is displayed in the show running through Feb. 28. The show features employee artists in public buildings throughout the county. Ted shares his creative inspiration, experience with art and a bit of encouragement to others in the five answers below.

What is the inspiration behind your art in the show?

Sunset Over a Beach

One of my favorite recreational activities is camping on the beach. There is something about being on the coast; right on the sand and surf that seems to "reset" the mind, body and soul when you spend any considerable time in that environment. Whilst enjoying the proverbial "long walk on the beach" I happened to come across a piece of driftwood that happened to look like the head and neck of a crane (bird), however, the body of the crane was non-existent. I think that's when my dominant "right-brain" logical portion of me kicked in and I absolutely HAD to complete the entire crane, otherwise it was "incomplete" (I know, sounds so OCD!). Since then, I have come across many other animal "parts" in the form of driftwood and so begins the story…

What do you want the viewers to see, or feel when they view your creation?

I try to get the viewer to see what I saw initially. Their first impression from afar should be the represented animal I was attempting, be it an eagle, bear, egret, or whatever. But when you get close, it should look like a bunch of driftwood all randomly attached to a single centerpiece. I would like to have the viewer have a firm resolve in their mind of what they are viewing when they first see it, but as they get closer to it and start processing what they actually see, confusion should set in as they can now see the individual driftwood pieces that created the whole. I know it sounds really deep and complicated, but I really want them to see it from my perspective. For example, when I'm attaching each individual piece; I'm so close that I sometimes forget why I'm putting that particular piece on it and I have to get up, walk a few feet away, and get the perspective I had back into my mind before I attach that piece permanently. My anguish is now your anguish!

How has creating art and/or submitting it into the show made a difference in your life?

Having been involved in the Placer Employee Art Show since its inauguration I've finally come to terms that perhaps I've actually created "art" by virtue of all the wonderful comments I've received over the years. I had never considered myself to be an artist until after I participated in this show. I will admit that I believe I've never considered this because I've had a preconception of what defines an "artist." In my own definition an artist has "talent" and I never thought of myself as being artistically talented. I just thought I was really good with a nail gun and glue. Now I've come to realize that the term artist has such a broad and undefined periphery that there is not really any authority to entitle anyone being or not being an artist. That title you have to claim for yourself and it ended up being my own predisposition of the term that prevented me from doing that.

Man Sitting in Wood Fort

What is your favorite medium to work in – or what medium have you always wanted to try and why?

I have always enjoyed working with metal. I grew up in rural Nebraska where the nearest neighbor was quite a few miles away from our house and the nearest town was even farther. Self-reliance was an absolute must and having basic skills like blacksmithing and leather-work was paramount to running an efficient farm. Making or repairing your own tack, or perhaps throwing a broken gate hinge in the coal forge to fix was something that you were taught at a relatively young age. It was expected of you. Over the years I let those skills fall to the wayside due to lack of necessity, but they never really disappeared from memory completely. On occasion I would fire up the forge a bang away a few hunting knives or weld together some fun yard art out of discarded horseshoes. Blacksmithing and metalworking is a very satisfying hobby that has long roots embedded in the history of mankind, which makes the hobby that much more satisfying.

What creative encouragement do you have for others?

Don't follow my footsteps with preconceptions of what the word or title "artist" means. It is up to you to determine that. Don't worry about what other people think about what you create either because it doesn't matter what you do; good, bad, or indifferent, everyone will have an opinion. Just do what YOU enjoy and make whatever makes YOU happy; because if you are truly happy, nothing else really matters!

Please stop by the Placer Creates show and experience some of the talent and creations of our employees. Learn more about the show, dates and locations.